Category Archives: Food

A thing about food, and orthorexia, and some rage

I do get frustrated writing on here sometimes (ditto pretty much anywhere else I write) as I forget that unless I explicitly say something, it’s otherwise not implied. E.g. things like my intersectional feminism, my history of discovering fat acceptance & accepting myself before I started lifting. I feel as if what I’ve tried to say just hasn’t come across. So in the avoidance of doubt:

Posts like the previous one, and this one, are basically me saying: “Loads of lifting blogs out there are blogs about how the writer was unhappy with their body and/or had food issues before they started lifting, and how they fought and/or resolved those issues through lifting. For me, I have developed for the first time (admittedly quite mild) food issues and lost confidence in my body because of lifting and the culture surrounding it”.

I just want to put it out there, you know? In case anyone else has developed food issues or body confidence issues because of lifting. Just like I wanted to put my post about endometriosis out there, in case anyone was Googling “powerlifting endometriosis” like I was, and finding nothing.

I say I have food issues – but yes, they are very mild. It’s more like niggles and doubts, and inner conflicts as my FA conditioning causes me to push back against them. I’m not going to pretend those doubts don’t exist, but if I express them I don’t want people to rush in thinking I’m an ingenue or completely unschooled in self-positivity. I went through 6 years of pyschoanalytic psychotherapy, so one thing I’m really good at is self-reflection (sometimes too good).

I write about these things on here to show that having doubts and niggles about stuff you’re otherwise positive about is normal. I just can’t bring myself to be the sparkly fountain of advice and positivity that other bloggers often are.

(Melissa A Fabello basically nails it in this thread)

I read the recent glut of news stories about orthorexia with interest because I think it is a thing; that “healthy eating” is now such a bloated and disgusting monster that people argue about the kind of coconut oil you buy and is it good enough, not just IF you use coconut oil or not (hence my comment about KTC brand yesterday). Among many, many other examples. It has got utterly ridiculous, IMHO.

I am definitely not an orthorexic (although the head weasels love to tell me I should be) but probably more a rage-orexic, when people claim they only care about “health” eat foods that indirectly cause other people to live in poverty and hardship (I guess “health” doesn’t extend to people outside their circle). Or who endlessly go on about only eating pasture-raised animals while promoting the consumption of foods that contribute to the extinction of other animals.

Or maybe I’m a fuck-you-rexic, because every time I see someone going on about the evils of something I consume (like low-fat yogurt) I just want to eat more of it in a fuck-you gesture.

One thing that annoys me in particular is that I get a ton of fitness/nutrition followers on Twitter who seem to be all about leanness and paleo, which I never understand (I try to emphasise the “hello I’m fat” thing in my bio) and then they go & bloody favourite my photos of the kind of foods they themselves would never eat. Are they going “Oh wow yeah, yummy pizza”? If so, I really hate that falseness; you’d never eat that, so piss off, it’s not for you. It reminds me a bit of You Did Not Eat That, which I’m not going to pass any judgement on.

Incidentally, if you want a nice intersection of capital-P Paleo & orthorexia, this is pretty fantastic.

It's probably Obama's fault.

It’s probably Obama’s fault.

Whew, that was possibly my angriest post for a while, eh? Feels good to get it all out though.

Last night I went to Bethnal Green & met a new lady who just started lifting there while I was away. Exclamation point! She seems pretty good so far – can squat with ease & already squatting 40kg & benching 30kg. Many thumbs up! Unfortunately she asked me if I had any nutrition advice (hah) and all I could offer was my discount code for MyProtein & that she should probably ask someone else.

  • Squats: worked up to 5 sets of 3 @ 70kg. Still feeling so out of shape post-holiday!
  • Romanian deadlifts: 3 sets of 8 @ 50kg
  • Dimel deadlifts: 2 sets of 20 @ 40kg
  • Machine rows: 3 sets of 5 @ 20kg each hand; then 2 sets of 3 @ 25kg each hand
  • V-sit ups: 3 sets of 10
  • Glute & ham raises: 3 sets of 10

I had intended to go to my other gym for either a jog on the treadmill or a spin class today (I know!) but as per usual I ended up lunching at my desk.

The other day I read a great post which was a nice postscript to my rantette about “healthy” food that “works” – Pork, Plums & Fodmaps on NorthSouth Food. I knew about the Fodmap protocol when I wrote my post but completely neglected to mention it, and the fact that on it, lots of “healthy” (oh that word) foods are actually unhealthy. Apples, cauliflower, avocado, etc etc. For Miss South, a healthy diet consists of “white bread all the way, very little fruit and only certain veg“.

Healthy is relative, y’all.

This week I’ve definitely been eating unhealthily for me, as work has been a stress-fest and I’ve only been able to power through my afternoons thanks to milk chocolate Hobnobs. I’m definitely enjoying not having to make weight at the moment (in fact I took a packet of dark chocolate digestive biscuits to the gym on Saturday and have been eating them in between squats). Once my boyfriend goes away on business again in 10 days I will probably be back on the green veg & meat again (but definitely not low carb because my guts are still not normal!)

I don’t start my new program at the gym until Monday, which is a 6-week runup to the Greater Londons on November 22nd. I haven’t been completely aimlessly working out, though – I still have to see if my new Adidas Powerlift shoes actually work for me; plus on Monday my coach got me to try a new setup for bench press. He’s getting me to ditch the blocks I usually use, put my feet back underneath me further (as opposed to having them under my knees), do a larger arch and aim to hit the bar on my bra underwire instead of on my boobs. It already feels like it could make a difference.

I also received the IPF Technical Rulebook yesterday which I have to study in anticipation of my IPF referee’s exam on the 19th October! Exciting times!!

Some ramblings on “works”, and other things

You may have figured out by now that lots of things in the fitness/healthy living “world” irritate the crap out of me. One of those things is blanket statements about food, eating, what “works” and what doesn’t. For this reason I don’t generally read blogs or blog posts about nutrition, because what I don’t read can’t rile me. But sometimes I can’t avoid it (because I click on a link Tweeted by someone whose opinion I value, for example). And at those times I want to write a coherent, eloquent blog post about why X or Y blanket statement is misguided (or plain wrong). Sadly, coherent & eloquent blog posts don’t come to me very easily, so you get this sort of thing instead.

For starters, I don’t believe ANY food is defacto “good” or “bad”. Food is not moral, it has no moral value, we need to stop talking about food using loaded terms. Every foodstuff has its place – not necessarily in everyone’s diet, but no food is just good or just bad for everyone.

For example, if you’re doing Whole30, you might call rice “junk food”. But if you follow ETP, rice is most certainly not a junk food. Sugar is almost universally reviled, but not if you follow Dr Ray Peat’s style of eating (and many do). Is whole wheat a “clean” food? Well, it depends on whose book you read. Ditto potatoes (and seriously, how are potatoes not “clean”?) Suffer from gastroparesis or a similar gastro-intestinal affliction? Then “healthy” fibrous greens like broccoli are probably going to make you very sick indeed. And so on and so on.

Another thing. I’ve discovered – in comparing my prep for this competition vs my prep for the London Clubs, that I actually train very well on sugary carbs, thank you very much. This goes against pretty much every single nutrition blogger ever (except maybe Dr Ray Peat) but it’s what works for me. I ate cheesecake 3 times in the week running up to my last competition and felt as strong as an ox. I’ve been eating lots and lots of green veg & fatty meats in the run up to this competition and I feel…meh. My guts are a mess (still!), I don’t feel strong. In fact I really don’t feel ready for this competition full stop.

As for dairy giving a person spots? Well, it doesn’t for me. In fact I have never been so spotty as I am when I’m making weight for competition & switch from dairy milk to almond milk. As it happens, I kinda don’t really care too much about spots – I’m more concerned about wrinkles, and one thing having a high body fat percentage helps with is smoothing out your wrinkles 🙂

Nuts. Loads of people advocate eating them for fat loss. However, I avoid them completely when making weight. I haven’t eaten a single almond or cashew for the last 3 weeks, when normally I eat them every day. They just make me heavy, which is a shame. I will be back on the almond butter on Monday, though!

And the oft-repeated cry of “toss the scale”? Good lord are you crazy? If you’re making weight for a competition, then not diligently weighing yourself is shortsighted at best. OK, so most CrossFitters don’t rate things based on bodyweight, but if you’re going to move to Olympic lifting, strongman or powerlifting (or any of the combat sports) then bodyweights matter. I’m quite lucky in that weighing myself isn’t that much of a headfuck (but weighing & measuring my food really skeeves me out – go figure) so I can hop on the scale every morning with no problems. In fact, this close to competition I’m weighing myself day & night, and sometimes even pre- & post-poop. It’s all about knowing exactly how much you weigh under certain conditions, so you can manipulate your bodyweight to best advantage.

I’m not claiming to be the grand arbiter of eating – god knows I’m not. What I am is a massive skeptic, picky as fuck and less & less willing to let blanket statements slide these days. The key with so many things is to find out what works for you but BEFORE you do that, define “works”.

What does “works” mean? Does it mean fat loss? Weight loss? Weight gain? Fat percentage maintenance? Convenience? Palatability? The ability to be comfortable buying food out of the house, instead of prepping everything at home? Being able to enjoy the meal your partner and/or children are eating, instead of preparing & eating a separate meal? Being happy in your body, whether it’s a size 10 or a size 30? Fitting into last year’s swimsuit? Having a bigger butt? Having a smaller butt?

For me, right now, “works” means being <72kg at 12pm on September 20th & not being as weak as a kitten as a result.

So often I see "works" used by people who assume everyone understands it as “weight/fat loss”. Well fuck that. I like my fat (in fact, during this session of making weight I’ve been alarmed to notice my boobs deflating), I like my body and having to be <72kg is one of those necessary evils to take part in a sport I (mostly) enjoy.

So really, I guess what I'm saying is:

What works for everyone is different.
But "works" might mean something completely different for the person next to you.
Screw blanket statements.
By all means read nutrition blogs, but question e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Well, my weekend hasn’t gone to plan. In fact, none of my prep for this competition has gone to plan. Not only have I completely failed to have a good training week, I’ve approached making weight in a daft way and managed to screw up my digestive system. Normally, I have the constitution of an ox and have no idea what it’s like to feel ill after eating certain foods (ones that aren’t rotten or anything); but cutting down on carbs has changed all that.

I had planned to spend Saturday doing fun things with my boyfriend, as I wasn’t going to the gym & he is at home briefly in between business trips. Instead, I spent it in my pajamas, on the sofa, with stomach issues. FUN TIMES. Remind me to never, ever go so low on carbs again. I mean, I was eating my fruits & veggies (mostly in the form of savoy cabbage, green beans, melon & figs, as they’re all in season) but I still wound up in digestive agony. Urgh.

As I’m currently cutting out dairy & bread/pasta (but not “hidden gluten”, if you know what I mean) and experiencing gastric distress for the first time in my life, I’m getting paranoid that when I start eating those things again after Saturday, I will have become intolerant to them. That can’t happen, can it?! 😦

Today I feel a lot better, but only because I ate a bowl of oatmeal yesterday, along with some rice & raisins. Today I’ve eaten oat bran & more rice. I have no idea how many grams of carbs that equals, but my tummy is definitely happier. I will have to be more careful next week – I can’t spend next Saturday on the sofa!!

I think it’s kind of interesting that supposedly healthier diets can do this to you. I understand that everyone is individual (although sadly a lot of nutrition blogs don’t seem to allow for that) but I didn’t think I’d wind up feeling so bad just from cutting out rice/oats/wheat/root vegetables. Similarly, I obviously have a well-honed tolerance for lactose & gluten – if cutting these things out makes me intolerant of those foods, is it really “healthy”? (I.e. is removing a tolerance for/the ability to eat a food group “healthy”?)

I’ve been thinking recently of the phrase “find a diet that works for you” and what “works” means. I think it’s usually presumed to mean “weight/fat loss”. For me, “works” is a diet that doesn’t screw up my guts, as well as one which allows me to enjoy the food my boyfriend cooks me, fits with my (eating in restaurants!) lifestyle, and includes lunchtime foods I can buy at places like Pret or Abokado 😉

In which I whine & whinge about making weight

Content note for weight loss, food tracking etc.

So it’s almost the end of August and one of my goals was to get down to 73kg by the end of the month (FOR COMPETITION WEIGHT CLASSES, not for mythical permanent weight loss). I’m going to do my weigh-in on Saturday because I’ll be at the gym, and those scales will be used for weigh-ins at the British Classic.

I don’t think I will be 73kg. I will definitely be 73.XXkg, but not 73.00. And I will no doubt be gutted (although I still have 3 weeks to make weight!) because fucking hell this week has been tough, food-wise. Also training-wise; but hard training is that much harder when you’re hungry ALL THE DAMN TIME.

I have a love/hate relationship with talking about making weight. On the one hand, I find ranting about it to be cathartic – who doesn’t love a good whinge? On the other hand, it brings out well-meaning people offering advice (which I don’t always take well because I’m a snippy sort of person) & it throws up all sorts of FEELS I have about body positivity & fat acceptance.

There’s also a third thing it throws up, which is that while I totally understand the movement to get women to stop dieting, eat more food and get strong, that movement has its own prejudices & parameters (i.e. it’s developed a whole new set of unattainable body ideals). So when someone uses my struggles with dieting as some sort of “example” about why women should just stop dieting and “embrace strong”, I’m afraid I want to punch them in the face. “Strong is the new skinny” isn’t relevant to me, I don’t belong to that movement (because I’m fat and “strong is the new skinny” definitely doesn’t accept fat!) so don’t try to involve me in it, thanks.

(On a tangent, on a powerlifting group recently I described myself as fat and another woman said “Not fat, you’re a thick chick!”. Argh, do not put words into my mouth, thank you! Fat is a descriptor, and one I choose to use for myself.)

It goes without saying that I feel similarly about “It’s not about weight, it’s about health!”. Because you can totally tell how healthy someone is by looking at them, mm-hmm. Plus healthy fat people would still be shunned be people spouting that abominable phrase, so STFU.

What I've been aiming for on a non-workout day, when I can be bothered to track

What I’ve been aiming for on a non-workout day, when I can be bothered to track

ANYWAY… Wednesday was a pretty poo day altogether. I’ve been trying to limit the amount of carbs I eat on non-training days, and on Wednesday evening after my dinner of 2 lamb loin steaks and a massive pile of vegetables I watched Great British Bake-Off pretty much ready to gnaw my own arm off. It didn’t help that during the day I’d sat in an afternoon of Puppet & Vagrant training surrounded by doughnuts, Haribo and chocolate that I couldn’t eat. I’m not sure how much I really learned about Puppet & Vagrant*, because all I could think about was doughnutsdoughnutsdoughnuts.

(Incidentally, avoiding those treats made me feel like one of those people who avoids work treats because of oh noes gluten and oh noes sugar; and hell to the no do I ever want to be one of those people. I need a sign to wear around my neck saying “I love gluten but I’m trying to make weight”)

A training day. Probably still not enough carbs though.

A training day. Probably still not enough carbs though.

On training days I’ve been eating more carbs, but avoiding pasta/bread/potatoes etc. As a result I ate the same chicken, broccoli & brown rice salad from my work canteen for lunch three times this week; luckily it’s delicious and I didn’t mind. Yes I eat from the work canteen – apparently this is another no-no from the food prep crowd; but seriously I can’t see how they’d sneak “bad stuff” into these salads. Our work caterer is one of those health-conscious ones, I guess because the company reckons we’ll be more productive if we’re not dead.

I feel like I need to end this post with a bit more positivity, which is that THIS TOO SHALL PASS and eventually September 20th will come and making weight will end. Hopefully I won’t wind up as weak as a fucking kitten (I love kittens) and am able to lift well at the British. If I only get the same as my previous, 84kg-weight-class, total I will be a happy lady.

Also, I won’t deny it but even though I’ve only lost 1kg so far I think I’m looking more hench (as opposed to smaller). Arms in particular. Funny how such a small scale difference can make a larger visual one. I still want to go up to the 84kg class, though, for my own mental health!!!

This isn't the previously-mentioned salad, I just can't see how this would be a "bad" food choice. Sorry tupperwarers.

This isn’t the previously-mentioned salad, but I just can’t see how this would be a “bad” food choice. Sorry tupperwarers.

Two-workout Thursday

At lunchtime I went to Pilates as usual and was the only person there, so I got a 1-to-1 Pilates session for nowt! Love it!

Bench & squats at BGWLC

We’re approaching peak in my training now and I won’t lie, it’s becoming awful. Squatting heavy twice a week is not fun at the best of times, let alone when you’re HUNGRY.

  • Bench press lockouts: worked up to 4 sets of 2 @ 60kg; one set of 2 @ 62.5kg
  • Squats: worked up to 5 sets of 3 @ 80kg
  • Seated good mornings: 50kg, 3 sets of 10
  • Glute & ham raises

Friday: conditioning

This was a 100% cardio session. I came veeeeery close to puking, I won’t lie.

* Note that Puppet & Vagrant is not a 1970s Eastern European children’s TV show, although it probably should be.

Catch-up, and some food pictures

I haven’t updated this blog for a while as I’ve been busy working on the social media stuff for my powerlifting gym, Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club. The club is currently moving from being council-run to a social enterprise and I offered to put up a website; the end result is here and I’m quite excited about the content we’re going to put up. It’s already sucking away a lot of my free time, though (and I don’t have loads to start with!) but it’s a labour of love – the gym has a really rich history and it deserves to be documented. Plus we need more bodies through the door to keep going, so all publicity is good!

This week I started my competition prep for the British on 20th September. I’m also supposed to be trying to lose weight, but that’s gone as well as you’d expect. In fact I’ve gained a kilo. Oh well.

Still, I’ve eaten some really excellent things this week, and it’s been a while since I did a recipe post, so…

Pork tenderloin in rosemary

My boyfriend picked up a reduced pork loin for 99p a while ago, and it’s been in the freezer while we decided what to do with it. In the end he settled on this recipe with a few adjustments to cooking time (we tend to like our meat much rarer than many American recipes suggest!).

Pork loin, roast potatoes, courgettes

Pork loin, roast potatoes, courgettes

We used our trusty meat thermometer & cooked the loin until it was 61°C inside; the end result was a bit more well-cooked than we intended but it was still tasty!

We served it with courgettes and roast new potatoes. I know white potatoes fall into the WHITE DEATH oh noes! category but we eat a load of them in this house. Incidentally, I was curiously looking up why white potatoes fall into the white death category while sweet potatoes/other tubers do not, and found a lot of stuff about glycoalkaloids, which I totally understand. What I don’t understand is that if potatoes developed glycoalkaloids to protect themselves from being dug up & eaten, why didn’t sweet potatoes/yams?

See, this is the sort of thing that really annoys me about paleo/primal eating principles – they use popular science / evopsych assertions on why we should or should not eat things, then fail to apply them consistently. See also why we apparently haven’t evolved to eat dairy but have apparently evolved (white Western people, anyhow) to eat coconuts. By all means use popsci / evopsych to justify what you eat but you have to be consistent, people.

Or maybe I’m just too skeptical for all this stuff.

Anyway, moving on…

Tasty salads from my work canteen

Back when I worked for the Daily Telegraph, we had a caterer called Artizian, and frankly the food wasn’t great. So when Artizian won the contract to cater at my current workplace, I was a bit skeptical (me? skeptical?)

BUT… I have been pleasantly surprised so far. I realise that eating pre-prepared salads where I don’t know how many net carbs/proteins/calories etc are in each dish is (once again) frowned upon in fitness circles, but I seriously couldn’t make salads this good at home.

Crayfish & lentil salad

Crayfish & lentil salad

This one was so good I ate it two days in a row. Crayfish, 2 types of lentils, green beans & tomatoes with a lemon vinaigrette dressing. OK so the dressing was probably made with vegetable oil, but this is me not giving a fuck.

Chicken, quinoa & pomegranate salad

Chicken, quinoa & pomegranate salad

Normally I don’t eat quinoa for various ethical reasons (that I don’t expect anyone else to adhere to) but I really enjoyed this. I did have to add quite a bit of salt, though.

Current favourite breakfast

Greek yogurt, protein powder, raspberries, almond butter

Greek yogurt, protein powder, raspberries, almond butter

I’ve quite often seen nut butter just blobbed onto other peoples’ dishes and thought it looked like a bizarre thing to do, but having finally tried it this week I’m a convert. My current favourite breakfast is 4 tbsp of Greek-style yogurt, 1 scoop of MyProtein natural vanilla whey, 2 tsp of almond butter and whatever fruit I have at home (raspberries are currently in season). I love it! Until the next time I get bored, anyhow.

Training this week

Just a brief round-up:

Tuesday: Pilates. I went to the after-work class, and it’s a good thing I did because I missed my usual Thursday lunchtime class thanks to a meeting. Stupid meetings.

Thursday: bench at BGWLC. I worked up to 5 x 5 narrow bench press @ 40kg, which was tough but good. Followed by tons of accessory & grip work.

Friday: conditioning.

Saturday: squats at BGWLC. I did exactly the same squats as I did on Monday – 6 @ 55kg, 6 @ 65kg, 6 @ 75kg. Then 5 x 5 dumbbell bench with 15kg dumbbells; RDLs; narrow push-ups; other accessory stuff.

Back to it

After just over a week off I’m starting my prep for the British Classic today. I’m not sure what sort of workout tonight has in store for me, but I told my coach that the squat program we used before my last competition obviously really worked so I imagine we’ll be doing that again.

I also need to start getting my weight in check from today. Blargh. I’m hovering roughly around the 74.5-75kg mark, and I’d like to be 73kg by the end of the month – that way I’ll feel more confident getting to <72kg on September 20th. Incidentally, I do have an afternoon weigh-in for the British, which is sheeee-iiiit. I suppose I ought to look into getting to around 71kg so I can at least have some breakfast before weigh-in.

I’ve been wanting to talk about food on here for a while, although as per usual it’ll be all jumbled. I know the secret to mass-loss starts in the kitchen, but whenever I read other peoples’ eating programs or read nutritionist’s stuff, I’m always puzzled that the eating programs are designed for one person and never have allowances for “what the rest of the family are going to eat”, IYSWIM. Are all the people doing these programs single, or do they cook & eat a totally separate meal from the rest of their family? If they’re not the person who does most of the cooking in their house, do they instruct the person who does the cooking/shopping on exactly what they want? How does it work?!

Not that I’m asking for advice on this. When I moved in with my boyfriend one of the major attractions (other than getting to see him every day!) was sharing cooking. I lived on my own for the best part of 6.5 years and I know the annoyance & tedium of cooking for one person, so having someone to share cooking/food bills was a big plus. As it’s worked out, he does most of the cooking due to how much time I’m out of the house & because he enjoys it (although we share the shopping/planning). So when I see those precise, carb-cycling, paleo, IIFYM, carb nite, weighed & measured etc etc nutrition plans I dismiss them, because I’m not eating separately from my boyfriend & I’m not making him cook those things.

The sad thing is that I know I’d probably be a much better lifter if I only ate a “performance” diet; but I know I’d be an unhappier person because I love my foodie lifestyle with my boyfriend. Balance!!

Friday: conditioning

AMRAP in 2 minutes for each of the following:

  • Knee tucks on a yoga ball
  • Burpees
  • 20″ box jumps (I still suck at these)
  • Double kettlebell clean & press
  • Medicine ball slams
  • Situps
  • Single-arm dumbbell snatch
  • Rope slams

Saturday – play bench session at BGWLC

  • Bench: worked up to 3 sets of 5 @ 40kg
  • Dumbbell floor press: 12.5kg, 3 sets of 10
  • Seated db shoulder press: 10kg, 3 sets of 7
  • Skull crushers: 12.5kg bar, 3 sets of 10
  • Light db row: 15kg, 3 sets of 10
  • Barbell curl behind back (forearm workout): 20kg, 4 sets of 30
  • Hammer curl: 5kg, 3 sets of 20
  • Superset: 3kg hammer curl & 1kg forearm….thingy (the weightlifting coach at BGWLC has decided I need MASSIVE FOREARMS): 3 sets of 20 of each Oh god the burning